Middlesbrough call on Carman

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough will ask the Football Association today to give them back the three points the Premier League deducted after they called off their fixture at Blackburn in December at just 24 hours' notice.

Boro will base their appeal, to be heard at a Heathrow hotel by a three- man FA commission, on a claim that the League has no powers to inflict such a penalty, which was also accompanied by a pounds 50,000 fine and an order to pay Blackburn's costs for staging the fixture.

The Premier League, however, is convinced it can prove that it was legally correct to deduct the points.

Boro's case will be enhanced by the distinguished barrister George Carman, who will present their appeal. The 67-year-old QC has scored a notable series of successes in the High Court, such as defending Imran Khan against a libel action brought by Ian Botham and Allan Lamb last year.

Carman is expected to present a formidable challenge for the Premier League's own legal representative, Anthony Grabbiner QC.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, who insists he had to call off the match at Blackburn on 21 December because he had 24 players injured or ill, is "hopeful" his club will win their appeal. The commission has the power to adjust the punishment, cancel it completely or even increase it.

Robson said: "We just hope that people will see common sense and understand the predicament we were in at that time." Middlesbrough looked certainties for relegation when the three points were deducted in January but since then have hit a rich vein of form to climb clear of the bottom three.

Blackburn will have their own legal representatives present at the appeal and may even submit that the three points Middlesbrough lost should be awarded to them.

The Premier League's spokesman Mike Lee said: "It would be inappropriate for us to comment at this stage but obviously we believe the original decision was a correct one."

It is clear that the Blackburn-Middlesbrough game will be re-arranged, and another option for the appeal board is to order that Boro play it with only the players they claimed were available on 21 December.

The Premier League's rule 19 states that no club shall, without just cause, fail to fulfil its fixture obligations in respect of any League match on the appointed date or dates. The club failing... shall pay compensation to the opposing club.

Sport threatened by court action, page 30

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